With Signal’s five-year anniversary approaching rapidly, it seems appropriate to spend a bit of time reflecting with someone who’s been here from the start. No one has a better perspective on how our company has grown than Signal’s Vice President of Talent and Culture, Lisa O’Keefe.
At Signal, Lisa and her team are charged with building a great team and cultivating a culture that promotes innovation, team and personal growth, fun, and the delivery of amazing products. Lisa was solely responsible for all hiring until the beginning of 2014. She now has a small but mighty team to help with talent acquisition but is still responsible directly for all hiring on the engineering team. Because of this, she knows all of us, and the result is a uniquely familial environment.
Lisa has been with Signal since the beginning. After Lisa earned her Masters degree in Library Sciences in 2009, Signal CEO Mike Sands asked if she would help build the BrightTag team and she agreed—but let Mike know she was still going to look for a role as a medical librarian.
However, after those few months had passed, Lisa admitted that she was drawn in by the founding team’s focus on fostering a culture of innovation as well as the opportunity to build and support a great team. “We all came into this wanting to solve new and interesting problems,” she says. “And we were steadfast in our desire to create a culture that supports treating people like adults and giving them the freedom they need to do their best work .”
Some of what Lisa has learned along the way is good advice for budding entrepreneurs: “Founders of companies and HR executives can’t just declare a culture. There is, however, a great opportunity to create and support the environment where culture develops.” To create this environment, Signal’s founding team decided that there were three qualities they sought in everyone they hired: intelligence, kindness, and an unwavering sense of adventure. Those are the same values they hire for today.
Certainly intelligence and kindness are crucial to a positive culture. But I think this sense of adventure is what makes Signal so unique. “The people we hire at Signal have amazing industry experience, but they also have myriad outside interests. We have artists, authors, world travelers, endurance athletes,” explains Lisa. “This sense of fearlessness and ability to take on new challenges is vital as we create technology that we hope will change an industry.”
And Lisa doesn’t simply talk the talk, she is fearless in her own right. Lisa’s career in the tech industry has ranged from large HR teams to competitive intelligence. Her love of research prompted her to get her MLIS, focusing on medical informatics and medical librarianship, which she put into practice at the Jesse Brown VA hospital and International Museum of Surgical Science. Despite this, she says people are always more interested in her experience as a student at the French Pastry School and brief career as a sous chef.
Perhaps her wide-ranging experience is the inspiration for many of the unique perks that Lisa has instituted at Signal, including Supper Club and Peer Bonuses. Supper Club is a company-subsidized dinner for a diverse group of Signalites to go out and break bread at one of Chicago’s many wonderful restaurants. Peer Bonuses are about rewarding great work and collaboration, by allowing each employee to give out a $50 bonus to a deserving colleague of their choice each month.
Although she may have only planned on staying for a few months, Lisa reflects that what keeps her at Signal is the people. “My fellow Signalites are talented, amazing people. I’ve met some of my best friends here. It is such a privilege to be able to help put together this amazing team of people and to help to support a culture that allows people to grow professionally, do ground-breaking work, and have fun along the way.”
We’re grateful to Lisa in hiring the great folks who work here at Signal, and for nurturing the vibrant and supportive culture we enjoy here every day.